I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. Before you meet him I’d like you to come with a simple acronym reminding you of a few mundane details from your life. Mine is p-r-o-b-e. It spells out my address. This is very important because this friend is from a time far-far away and lives on an untethered helium balloon floating in clouds made from imagination and moon-dust. When you listen to his music and try and get to know him, he might invite you into his house on that helium balloon for a cup of coffee. You’ll find it is imaginably easy to lose yourself inside that house. The deeper into rock and roll you go the stronger your acronym needs to be. (I recommend leaving Ziggy Stardust on in the background while you read if your acronym is indeed strong enough)
Once upon a time, there lived a man. A man who was fantastically attractive and fanatically addictive in all the sense of the words. His appearance before a performance was welcomed by cheers of decibel and pitch that immortalize an artist as an icon of a generation. The applause at the wake of his performances never failed to emasculate the sound equipment that had been delivering the song of his guitar just moments before. But I write today, not of this man who went by David Bowie, a mortal who’s mortality was much in question for much of the ’70s. I wish to introduce you to his creation: a little someone named- Ziggy Stardust.
Ziggy Stardust is an extraterrestrial omnisexual rockstar sent as a messenger from the cosmos and David Bowie took him on tour across the globe in 1972-73. I want to tell you the story of why Bowie creating the album titled ‘The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ is so important to rock and roll history.
Every one of Bowie’s songs is written to communicate to his audience, which is exactly what his persona Ziggy Stardust was aimed at.
Through the course of the album, Bowie illustrates the narrative of this character he created.
The story begins with earth depleted of natural resources and humanity facing the final five years of its existence. The only hope left resides with an alien messiah. Ziggy Stardust, the extraterrestrial rock star acts as the messenger on behalf of the starmen accompanied by the Spiders of mars as his band. His message is the heirloom idea of rock and roll: peace and love. Ziggy performs his message to the world through guitars and microphones. As the lyrics seep through the cracks in his audience, everyone listening finally breathes in the essence that has become part of the air around his music. They become bound within the vastness of what is communicated to them. However, Ziggy falls to the same-old mortal weakness. The song of human attention and fame proves to be far more deceptive than a man of the cosmos could have ever dreamed. The chronicle is about the rise and tragic fall of our Hero, who’s decadence is to an all too familiar hubris.
“I trusted in my own optimistic ideas of what I can do” is the philosophy Bowie says was behind his efforts of bringing an album created around a fictional character into music. It was something that existed in written mediums and theatrical mediums but at the time remained unexplored in the realm of rock and roll. His confidence in his own individuality led him astray from the yellow brick road of rock and roll syntax and into the creation of Ziggy Stardust.
The fabrication of this beautiful persona came from an early British musician named Vince Taylor. Vince Taylor, very characteristically of a ’60s musician, walked into the castle of candy; emotionally broke down; joined a cult and decided that he was an alien God on earth. A few more pieces of the puzzle presented themselves in the from a Texan singer and a Japanese designer which he stuck together with the first name of a tailor shop he noticed from a train.
“Ziggy was to me, a very simplistic thing- An alien rockstar.”, Bowie says at an interview with a voice that almost convinces you that an extra-terrestrial messiah is really just the most the ordinary and plausible thing in the world. He had an effortless charm that forces any skepticism out of your mind. (This is not the only persona he more than convincingly introduced to his audience during his career).
“You’re in a bubble. You don’t read the newspapers and you’re on tour eleven and a half months of the year, playing just about every night. You’re in the thick of a rock ‘n’ roll circus that’s freakier than anything else.” says Woodmansey, the last surviving member from the band 'Spiders from Mars'. You walk out into a place, and there’s 20,000 people all trying to look like you,” he said. “You occasionally think, ‘Hang on, I’m from Driffield!’ But everyone thinks you’re from Mars.”
When you listen to the music and watch their performances, a little bit of that disconnection connects to you. The real world is far away and you live in ‘Ziggy world’. His problems are so much more catastrophic than yours but the atmosphere of music makes everything….okay.
“I dressed as him for performance value, but other people read into it and contributed more information about Ziggy than I put into him originally”. Bowie says at an interview in response to a world that was adding an increasing amount of depth to this character. The explanation is almost dismissive of Ziggy but the lyrics are so much more convincing than his explanation. Here is where the charm of his conversational dexterity seems to falter because the lyrics, music, and attire just have to be so much more than ‘performance value’. They just have to be. The siren call of his performances proving to be (somehow) more convincing than the words from his interviews.
It becomes nearly impossible not to be seduced by Bowie’s flair for the theatrical and weird. His music is seductive and addictive. If you listen to him today you can feel the pull of that attraction across time and reason.
I believe that every artist loses the right of ownership over his art after releasing it to an audience, which is a great thing. The piece begins belonging to the audience. Each person's personalities adding more to the piece as they fall in love with it and interpret it in their own way. That’s exactly what happened to Ziggy. Because Ziggy was pulled out of the sky he was more real than Bowie. Ziggy Stardust became immortal hope that belonged to everyone the musician introduced him to. Which is why I just wanted to say:
Here, ... meet Ziggy Stardust.
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